A&M-CC Leads National Spatial Reference System Update for Texas

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi is leading the way in the Lone Star State as part of a national technological update that will transform the fields of surveying, cartography, and land-use planning.

Nearly 40 years after the North American Datum (NAD) of 1983 supplanted the NAD of 1927 as the horizontal datum used to define the geodetic network in North America, the U.S. National Geodetic Survey (NGS) is set to introduce its replacement in 2023.  

As part of the update, each state is required to update its State Coordinate System Project zones. In Texas, the Texas Spatial Reference Center (TSRC), housed within the Conrad Blucher Institute for Surveying and Science at TAMU-CC, is set to serve as the official resource to the new National Spatial Reference System and Texas State Coordinate System definitions starting Sept. 1.

Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, on behalf of the TSRC, introduced a bill during the 87th Legislative Session to appoint TSRC as the official resource to the new Spatial Reference System and Texas State Coordinate System definitions. Once introduced, Coastal Bend elected officials, including Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa and Rep. Todd Hunter, moved quickly to secure the bill’s passage. Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 1082 into law as written on June 7. SB 1072 also allows for the adoption of the international foot as a standard official unit of measure to start on Jan. 1, 2023.

“The Island University is so thankful for the continued support we have received from our legislators, especially Senator Hinojosa, Representative Hunter, and Representative Herrero,” said Dr. Kelly M. Miller, TAMU-CC President and CEO. “It is thanks to their tireless work that we have achieved this unique and innovative opportunity, bringing further national recognition to our campus.”

Dr. Ahmed Mahdy, TAMU-CC Vice President for Research and Innovation, echoed Miller’s sentiments.

“This designation is a testament of TAMU-CC’s prominence as a national leader in geospatial sciences and a reflection of the quality of our academic and research programs,” Mahdy said.

Previously, surveyors relied on a point of reference, often a static monument or landmark, to base calculations.

“The 2022 National Spatial Reference Frame will rely on the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), which includes the Global Positioning System (GPS) and others, and gravity to calculate the new datum,” said Dr. Davey Edwards, TSRC Director and TAMU-CC Professional Assistant Professor in the School of Engineering & Computing Sciences.

Edwards added that the planet’s tectonic plates are consistently moving in many directions over time.

“This movement and the deterioration of the static monuments makes the 2022 datum more relevant to the future of mapping and navigation,” he said.   

In order to comply with the NGS update requirement that each state update its State Plane Coordinate System, Texas will increase its current five-zone definitions to 50 low-distortion zones. As result of the sheer size of the state, the previously described zones created large areas of distortion within it, Edwards said.

“By creating smaller zones, we are able to stay within a low distortion projection (LDP) allowing the projected measurements to be closer to the surface distances,” he said.

Looking ahead, Edwards said the TSRC will continue to work with stakeholders to provide horizontal and vertical control information for all mapping purposes, especially for emergency and floodplain management.